If you are NOT eligible to file for the return of the child under Hague Convention (e.g. Non-Hague country or a domestic case), or if your child was abducted prior to 2014, there are other options available.
Parents who work within the Japanese legal system to gain even limited access can sometimes develop an environment of trust that can result in greater access and, in some circumstances, the return of the child. It is essential that you seek legal counsel from an attorney that is well-versed in Hague and child abduction cases. We encourage you to consider the lawyer referral service provided by the Japan Federation of Bar Association and U.S. Embassy Tokyo’s list of English-speaking lawyers who specializes in family law, divorce, and custody issues.
Attorneys and child psychologists suggest that parents should remember that the child develops physically and mentally every day. Parents should be patient, flexible, and keep the best interest of the child in mind.
The following options are generally available to all parents:
Seek resolution by voluntary agreement between the two parties.
Petition directly through a Japanese Family Court. Legal aid and translation service by the Central Authority will NOT be available. A petitioner may consult Houterasu (Japan Legal Support Center) which helps callers locate legal professional support in civil and criminal matters. Reduced or free legal aid is provided, depending on the petitioner’s income. A mirror order system does not exist in Japan, but a similar arrangement may be made via consent decree under certain conditions through a court procedure. Please consult with an attorney for your options.
If your child was abducted prior to 2014, you may also be eligible to:
File for Access under the Hague Convention network. This can be beneficial in several ways: 1) the Japan Central Authority can attempt to locate the child; 2) you may be eligible to take advantage of legal aid and translation services; and 3) you can also take advantage of ADR sessions at little or no cost to you.
File a request for assistance with mediation or Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) with the Japanese Central Authority, which handles all Hague-related matters for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan.
ADR Institutions, Legal aid, and translation service are provided under the Hague Convention framework. The Ministry of the Foreign Affairs can also refer the parties to Visitation Supporting Institutions and provide some financial support to families wishing to use these services. Another option is the “Mimamori”; a monitored online virtual conference room provided by experienced social workers. For more details, please refer to the Hague Convention Division website and video clip.
Prof. Noriko Odagiri (Child Psychologist)